On Being Thankful

“We shall not cease from exploration,
and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.”
T. S. Eliot

I cannot recall a year in my life that has been so consistently emotionally exhausting. As the holidays approach and another birthday looms around the corner, I find myself starting the ritual of reflecting on all that’s happened this year. I am amazed at the events, and resulting emotions, that have filled the past eleven months. There have been some incredible highs (like my twin sister’s wedding!), but there seem to have been an abnormal amount of lows. To be certain, challenges will always continue throughout life. It’s how we choose to respond to these events that helps one to learn from, or not, our experiences that can help guide our future.

Looking back now, it is no surprise that my last blog post was over six months ago … and the irony of writing about achieving work-life harmony is not lost on me. What resonates the most from that post is the understanding that we can - and should - choose how to spend our time. In the final paragraph, I wrote:

“Ultimately, we each must remember that we have the ability to be in control of our lives. If we feel out of control, we need to find time to take a step back to understand why. Have we said yes to too many things? Are we not focused with what matters most in aligning our values and personal goals? Deliberately creating the space to have control over individual actions is what will allow each of us to have the time (or not) to strategize towards accomplishing our own work-life harmony.”

I believed what I wrote at the time, yet now I understand in a new way what I actually meant. During the past six months, finding my own harmony to understand the continually compounding experiences meant taking time off to process all that was happening and find a way to feed my own soul. While difficult to step away from so many things that I cherish, it was absolutely necessary - and a decision that only I could make. The past six months have been a time of ‘being’. It has been a time of reflection, a time of loss, and a time for compassion. 

Throughout this time and space to ‘be’, my patience has also been tested. I typically feed my soul by soaking up sunshine in outdoor explorations, yet tendonitis had me dragging along a ‘gimpy hoof’ (as my sister calls it) with very limited physical exertions. During this time, I have come to understand that my past way of processing life experiences has been dependent upon being in a certain location or through certain actions (i.e. trips outside hiking or running). I had hinged my mental clarity and processing upon ‘doing’. In the vacuum of not being able to hike or run for many months, I was forced to better understand that my personal learning can and should be fueled by ideas, not by doing. Ideas can happen anytime, anywhere, and with anyone - not solely outside in the isolated space I previously created for myself, as I had previously thought. Ideas are dependent upon a mindset of questioning, learning, listening, and a willingness to grow. 

We each have, and will continue to, experience hurt, trauma, and emotions throughout life - and sometimes the scales will seem out of balance. Those experiences are (at least in part) what fuels each one of us to search for meaning, what inspires us to do good work, and what encourages us to be our authentic self. Even with the best laid plans, we are sometimes forced to reconsider our own goals and priorities. Among so many other family, friends, and aspects of life that I am grateful for,  I am extremely thankful for the down time 2016 forced me to live, providing the opportunity reflect, to search for meaning, and to set out in pursuit of truths.